Sir, You Are Being Hunted – Interview

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GrogHeads Editor Jim Zabek eagerly jumped at the opportunity to interview James Carey, Designer of Sir, You Are Being Hunted. The team at

GrogHeads (GH): Can you tell us about Big Robot and the people behind it?

James Carey (JC): Big Robot is a core of three people, two full time, with a couple of art freelancers into the mix as well. We started the company to make a game called Fallen City for a British TV broadcaster (which is still freely available through Channel 4’s website). Since then we’ve released a second title called AVSEQ (available on our website or through Steam) and successfully ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund Sir, You Are Being Hunted last year. The core team is: Jim Rossignol – Creative Director, author of This Gaming Life and co founder of Tom Betts – Programmer, procedural generation genius, and then me, James Carey – Designer, before Big Robot I worked on Arma 2 and for the Creative Assembly.

GH: Tweedpunk? What’s up with that? It sounds instantly cool. If you guys haven’t invented the genre, you’re definitely putting a big stamp on it. What does Tweedpunk mean to you and where do you see it going?


JC: We came up with the term ‘Tweedpunk’ as a sort of off-the-cuff line for an interview. It seemed to get pounced on by everyone even though we only meant it as a half-joke. Basically we wanted to try and distinguish ourselves a bit from being ‘steampunk’ because Sir is not really Victorian in that way – we have modern phone boxes and wind turbines and stuff like that in the world – it’s more a sort of parody of the British upper classes, of fox hunting and tweed-wearing privilege.

GH:  The game world in Sir is “procedurally-generated.” Can you describe what that means and how it makes each level unique?

JC: Proc gen is a way of generating things mathematically, rather than creating things by hand. For us in Sir that means generating believably British-looking countryside using a number of algorithms and layering those up until we have a coherent world. We start with a cell-like structure called a voronoi diagram (like looking at a leaf under a microscope), which we distort randomly. The cells this diagram forms look a little bit like the ‘patchwork-quilt’ of British farmland so we assign each cell a type: field, forest, hill, lake, village etc. Will then fill those cells procedurally with appropriate scenery like trees or rocks and so on, lining the boundaries with fences and hedges and walls. Any cells that are turned into villages get filled will houses and gardens (again all procedurally) and we link up the villages with roads. Basically we keep layering up random elements with clever maths until we end up with totally unique worlds that still feel coherent and believable, that feel like places that would WORK in the real world.


GH: I am personally a fan of dystopian steampunk, but I’m curious where you got the inspiration for a British countryside populated by aristocratic robots hunting humans for sport. It’s brilliant. But, what the heck? Was there not enough earl in your gray tea?

JC: We all grew up watching sinister, clunky British sci-fi like Dr. Who and Triffids, but also Hammer Horror, Hound of the Baskervilles, all that good stuff, and we all live in rural British countryside so we’re very much surrounded by the themes of the game. It’s partly that ‘write what you know’ thing. The ‘hunting gentleman robots’ part just felt right as soon as we thought of it. You can never have enough tea though, that’s true.


GH: So tell us about the game. Stealth is clearly a big part of it, but there is a balance between stealth, redirection, and confrontation with the robots. What are some of the decisions that you’re going through to optimize this mix with an open game world?

JC: We always wanted to make it possible to complete a run through one of the worlds completely non violently, so stealth was a must. You can of course shoot your way out but ammo and guns are rare and shooting is a noisy business, you end up attracting more robots and causing yourself more trouble if you run around guns blazing. I mean, I tend to play it quite aggressively like that, but I know Jim and Tom both play using more of our stealth and misdirection tools. You can set traps, lure robots with noise making devices, smash bottles and things like that to manipulate robot patrols. One thing I do like to do actually is set a load of mantraps around a fire, then light the fire, which attracts all the nearby robots to it and then they get stuck in the traps, then I just bop them on the head with an axe… Combining tools and world elements like that is a big part of the game.

GH: Some of the early reports about Sir hinted at a multiplayer component that might have options for both competition and coop. Does that mean a player might have the opportunity to, say, snare a teammate in a trap and leave him to the robots as the rest of the team escapes? What kinds of rewards/unlocks might be offered in that case?

JC: The multiplayer side of Sir will only be released some time after the singleplayer is finished. But yeah, it will basically play like the singleplayer. You’ll all be trying to collect the same pieces of the device that brought you to the islands so you can reassemble the machine, but there are only enough pieces to get ONE of you home. So you might cooperate to begin with, helping each other deal with robots, but when it comes down to the last couple of pieces you might start stabbing each other in the back…


GH:  Sir’s Kickstarter campaign was a resounding success, with several levels unlocked beyond the successful funding amount. What was one of the unlocks you had in mind that you wish could have been included?

JC: The only one we didn’t hit was character customisation. That would have been cool, to choose exactly what sort of pipe and moustache really says ‘me’. We may still get to do SOME of that stuff for MP though.

GH: Granted the game hasn’t been release yet, but with the support received during the Kickstarter phase, are there any whispers over a pint about a sequel?

JC: Early Access kickstarter backers are currently playing the alpha and we’re planning to extend that out to all KS backers and other preorderers soon so even though the game isn’t finished, people are playing. As for a sequel, well, we’ve got a long way to go still with Sir, loads more content to go in as the alpha and then beta progress. I guess it depends on the ultimate success of the game. We’ve got other games and other worlds lined up for the future, but that doesn’t rule out more Sir if the demand is there!


GH:  Thank you for chatting with us. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

JC: Cheers!

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